Germany says it has repatriated eight women from a camp in northern Syria who joined the so-called Islamic State (IS). Along with 23 children have also been brought back from 6 camps.
Germany brought them back as part of a joint operation with Denmark. Denmark has also repatriated three women and 14 children, German officials say.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Moss said the women, who were brought back to Germany, were now in the custody of authorities and would face a criminal investigation.
Hundreds of Europeans who went to Syria and joined IS are now in Kurdish-controlled camps in northern Syria.
Family members of the accused IS fighters and thousands of other displaced people were relocated to the camps after the declaration that IS had been defeated regionally in Syria and Iraq in March 2019.
What are the German authorities saying?
The German Foreign Ministry says women and children from the Roj detention camp in northeastern Syria landed at Frankfurt airport on Wednesday.
Minister Mr. Maas said she was “happy” to have them back in Germany, but that “these mothers must be held accountable for their actions.”
“Children are not responsible for their situation,” he said. He further noted that these children “are particularly in need of protection”.
Most of the Europeans in the Syrian camps are suspected to be the wives and children of IS fighters or sympathizers of the jihadist group.
Human rights groups have called on European governments to repatriate their citizens. Their argument is that leaving these women and children in the camp increases their risk of falling ill and being inspired by jihadist ideology.
Germany joined Finland and repatriated five women and 17 children from Syria to Germany in December. Belgium also repatriated six women and ten children in July.
Most of the governments are considering bringing them back by sorting out each incident separately. But the governments of some countries have expressed reluctance to take back their citizens out of security concerns.
Notable among these is the issue of taking back Shamima Begum from Britain. Shamima Begum, a British schoolgirl, joined IS in 2015 and the British government revoked her British citizenship citing security reasons.